Having recently been named to TIME Magazine’s “11 Bands You Don’t Know (But Should),” Hands began in Philadelphia as a duo with singer Geoff Halliday and guitarist Ryan Sweeney developing their own unique take on an electronically tinged indie rock aesthetic. They moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter and joined with bassist Alex Staniloff and drummer Sean Hess to fill out the ranks of the band. Signing to indie rock stalwart label Kill Rock Stars, the band quickly set about recording the songs which would comprise their self-titled debut LP. Stretching out into synth-pop, indie rock, and anthemic stadium rock, the band develops an elastic dynamic that allows them to easily switch genres, oftentimes within the same song. The band recently sat down with Beats Per Minute to talk about a few of the records and songs which have influenced them over the course of their relatively short career, as well as their own individual tastes. Ranging from 1980’s Japanese chillwave predecessors Mariah to Thom York and James Lavelle, the band reveals the numerous inspirations for their often eclectic aesthetic. Check out the full list below in Hands’ contribution to our ongoing On Deck series.
My ex-girlfriend showed me these guys. A Japanese band from the 80s that sounds like a Brooklyn band from the 2010s. It’s crazy to think how ahead of their time these guys were and how many bands must’ve been inspired by them. It’s got such a simple straightforward melody with such a contemporary structure. The lyrics, too, say so much with saying so little (My life is big/I’m walking). In a way, it’s almost like super slow disco – it has a great groove that just repeats and builds every now and then but doesn’t really veer too off-course and yet works so well the whole four and a half minutes. My ex would be pissed if she knew I were sharing this song with so many people but that bitch totally stole my tickets to Knott’s Berry Farm.
When I was 10, all I wanted to do was play drums. With middle-school on the horizon, I was looking for a way to one-up all the super athletic guys in my grade in the realm of appealing-to-women. 90s TV informed me that being in a band was the way to go, so I wanted a head start before the other guys caught on. Little did I know, however, the Wayzata Elementary Schools make young boys jump through a lot of hoops before the are allowed behind a drum set. Those hoops are called marimba, vibes, bells, timpani, and anything else that is seen as mind-numbing to an agro child who just wants to make loud sounds. Learning to play these instruments gave me a new appreciation for mellower music and made me chill out a bit. Fast forward to today, and its no secret that HANDS loves their vibes. Our 7″ that came out in January ditches our normal sampler/synth tricks for a more acoustic arrangement, with heavy work on the vibes. This track by the infamous Cal Tjader is an example of one we were listening to at the time. The grooves from some of his other songs informed some of our album tracks like “Kinetic”. But with all that aside, tell me you don’t want a little “Soul Sauce” in your life.
This song is the fucking jam. It’s one of those marvelous tracks that just immediately makes you feel very cool, just for listening to it. Especially at 1:20 when this amazing synthesizer breaks into the mix. I can’t really even express how insanely danceable this song is. It would not be out of place at a discotheque on a space colony in 1973. It’s also like seven minutes long so that is pretty dope too.
This was one of the first songs that really freaked me out as an early musician. I had no idea how the sounds came to be or how the insanely intricate drum programming could sound so good. I was absolutely mesmerized and I remember making a mix CD or two that featured the song more than once. What a weird thing to do. Oh CDs. Anyway, this song reaches some ridiculous heights when they drop the full drum kit and I implore you to listen. I originally thought it was Radiohead, but it isn’t.
I have stopped at many rest stops along the musical highway of my life. I have also made much better metaphors in my day so please don’t judge me just yet. Wait for when I tell you I listened to Slipknot for a nice chunk of my teenage years. Anywho, the first was rest stop called the Green Day “Dookie” rest stop and then it was the Slipknot rest stop. I couldn’t tell you how I ended up at a hip hop rest stop directly after Slipknot but, I did. All of a sudden I was listening to Mos Def and Talib Kweli non-stop. And then came high school. A 6-lane highway with people honking their horns at one another, slashing tires left and right. It was mania. You learn a lot in manic states though and, what I learned was that The Beta Band are my favorite band to walk the earth and have been since I first heard them. It’s a shame they have parted ways. Their ability to combine hip hop with rock and folk music is inspirational and struck me in a way that I can’t put into some lame metaphor about rest stops. Their use of samples, loops, and repetitive lyrics are just a few of the elements I’d say The Beta Band taught me to use when writing my own music. If it weren’t for The Beta Band I may have hit the brakes, gone in reverse and stopped back at the Slipknot rest stop. Which wouldn’t have been the worst thing ever.